MASON CITY — The City Council in Mason City last night approved the sale of the land that currently is the overflow parking lot south of Southbridge Mall to a Sioux Falls company that wants to develop an apartment and townhouse project.

Talon LLC is proposing to construct the $14 million development that would include 113 apartments and 20 town houses on the site. Under the agreement, Talon is purchasing the city-owned property for $50,000 while the city would provide a 10-year tax abatement incentive as part of a development agreement.

North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation CEO Chad Schreck says local business leaders want to see these types of developments to attract people to the community.  “What we’ve seen I guess in our own work and working with our companies through our Vision North Iowa program where we really identify that is a core need. That was one of the key findings of that whole process, through our focus groups, through our studies, and that was one of our priority areas as a key area of weakness that was identified through that process. It’s also been in the city’s plans, it was one of the city’s primary and the city council’s primary objectives here for 2018 and 2019 was to remove barriers and incentivize living in the downtown area, as well as support infill housing development. I think this fulfills both of those priorities.

Schreck says too large of a sector of people working in Mason City are not living in the community.  “Almost 40 percent of the people that work in our county live outside the county, so that’s a huge opportunity for us to attract people that are working here already but are leaving every night, so how do we get them to give them more housing opportunities in the community. That’s about 9500 people that are here every day and then leave. I think that’s a big opportunity area for us that will hopefully help us to fill.”

Schreck says there needs to be more market-rate housing available in Mason City.  “It’s important that people understand that market rate means what can our market bear, what can people in our market afford. Our median housing income is $50,000 a year. If you go by the standard that about 25% of your income is what you can afford in housing, that would be about $12,000 a year, $1000 a month. You look at the price range of these units, they are within that range, below and above and right on it. So they’re really hitting every price point that our market can bear , and as we’ve seen, they are very comfortable with the number of units that they’re having and their housing studies supported that.”

Some current apartment complex owners have voiced their opinion against the project. Councilman John Lee says those landlords that are worried that they may be losing tenants are most likely under-serving those people.  “I’m assuming that most of those are going to be more expensive. So if I have an apartment for $500 and I go to this new apartment for $800, I was under-serving them. They were looking for something better but it wasn’t here. If we’re losing people to this that means we were under-serving them. I think it is a new product, I think it’s as unique enough that a lot of people are…and you know we know we have people coming to Mason City talk about …we were in a meeting today that somebody said they looked for months, they couldn’t find what they were looking for when they first moved here. They would have staying in hotels for extended period of time. So I do think we have this, and I think there are legitimate concerns, but I think this is an opportunity that the city just can’t look away and this fits exactly to what we’ve been looking for a couple years.”

Lee says there has been a demand for this type of project in Mason City and city leaders have been asking local developers to explore it.  “More and more people are loving this kind of lifestyle, living downtown, in an apartment complex, that has workout rooms, that has wifi, that have walkability to everywhere, and this serves that. This is something that the city has been asking for for three years, and any of our developers around town could have seen the studies and done a market analysis to see if they agree with it. This group has done that, and they’ve done it with eight other towns, whatever it is.”

Talon has said they would like to break ground on the project in about 90 days from the completion of the sale.

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